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Home > Greek Islands: Local’s Guide To Island-Hopping Greece
Greek Islands: Local’s Guide To Island-Hopping Greece
Written by our local expert Gabi
Gabi is an award-winning writer who lives on the Island of Crete in Greece. She is an expert in Greek travel and writes guides for the everyday traveler.
Although most of us close our eyes and dream about the enchanting images of white Santorini, there are so many more Greek islands to choose from that you never know exactly where to start island-hopping in Greece..or where to finish!
So, please let me help you island-hop Greece like a local, using my own travel experience of living in Greece for many years.
There is nothing more magical, romantic, and adventurous than boarding a Greek ferry and sailing the sea to explore the beautiful beaches of Greece. The Greek islands are blessed with stunning landscapes and feel like an authentic slice of paradise.
You must first know that the Greek islands are divided into different island groups. As well as that, some islands are extremely popular among Greek island-hopping tourists, while others, equally enchanting, are almost unknown and offer a great vacation spot for those looking for less crowded places… which often come with much lower price tags too!
So, let’s get started and show you the best way to island hop in Greece;
Skip Ahead To My Advice Here!
The Greek Islands Groups
Let’s take a look at the islands of Greece and what groups they belong to.
These are the most popular islands in Greece . When you go island-hopping in the Cyclades, you can visit gorgeous beaches and places like Santorini , Mykonos , Sifnos, Syros, Serifos, Paros, Milos, Naxos, Amorgos, Ios , Tinos, and Folegandros.
This beautiful slice of Greece includes islands such as Patmos , Samos, Kos, Tilos, Symi, Kalymnos , Leros, and Rhodes. The latter is one of the most popular destinations and often features on Greece island-hopping itineraries .
These islands are easy to visit when visiting Greece from Italy , one of the many popular Greek island hopping routes. Corfu , Lefkada , Kefalonia , Zakynthos , and Ithaka are some of the best-known Ionian Islands.
Argo-Saronic Gulf Islands
Easy to reach as they are relatively close to Athens , the most popular Saronic Islands include Aegina, Poros, Hydra , Spetses, Salamina, and Agistri.
Crete is Greece’s biggest island. It’s a major destination on its own, a place where you could spend a week or more exploring amazing beaches and ancient sites.
However, Crete is also a much-visited destination among people who are island-hopping in Greece . It is, for example, a great base from which to visit Santorini on a day trip .
Evia is the second biggest island in the country, and it is also easy to reach from Athens .
Northeastern Aegean Sea Islands
Some of the islands in this group are Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Ikaria , and Thasos.
These beautiful green Greek islands include Alonissos, Skyros, Skiathos, and Skopelos.
As you can already see, there is no one best Greek island for island-hopping – you have to see a few. Let us show you how many islands you can see on your island-hopping around Greece adventure with the ferry routes below.
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Ferry routes to the most popular greek islands .
When planning those unforgettable Greek island-hopping adventures, deciding where to go first or how long to stay is a decision that will be subject to the Greek islands’ ferry routes, ferry schedules, and your Greek budget .
Are you ready to start planning your Greek island-hopping vacation? Let’s go! This article gives you a sweeping panorama of how to island-hop in Greece. But, first things first, are you starting on the mainland? If so read this section:
From Athens To The Main Greek Islands
Athens, the capital of Greece, offers access to all the islands, either by plane or by ferry routes to the Greek islands . Popular islands, including Rhodes, Corfu, Crete , Mykonos, and Santorini, can be reached by flying out from Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport.
The most popular tours from Athens:
- 🏝️ Book this 13-day Greek islands tour in Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, and Rhodes and admire the beauty of each island!
- 🏞️ Grab the opportunity to visit the most cosmopolitan destination in Greece – Mykonos Island – on this day trip from Athens
- 🚢 Visit the most famous Greek islands – Santorini and Mykonos on a 2-day trip from Athens
- 🛥️ Spend four days traveling around some of Greece’s island hotspots by joining this trip with ferries, flights, and accommodations included
- 🚢 Book your ferries with Ferryhopper in advance
Athens Ferry Ports
It’s also a popular choice to travel by sea. You can reach most Greek islands from the main Port of Piraeus, about 30 minutes from the center of Athens. However, it would help if you also kept in mind that there are other ports from which you can depart, too. Lavrio and Rafina are two smaller island ports in Athens with regular ferry services to different Greek islands.
- From Lavrio: you can reach the islands of Chios, Lemnos, Andros, Folegandros, Ios, Kea, Kimolos, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos , Paros, Sikinos, Syros, and Tinos.
- From Rafina: instead, it’s possible to visit the islands of Crete, Andros, Folegandros, Ios, Amorgos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Sifnos, Sikinos, Syros, Tinos, and Santorini.
You can choose between fast ferries to the Greek islands that carry boat cargo on this route. These are ideal if you want to take a rented car or motorbike with you.
For the best flight deals, book your ticket here .
Corfu to santorini, crete, and mykonos.
There are no direct flights from Corfu to Santorini, Mykonos, or Crete. Therefore, if flying is a must, the best way to get there is to fly to Athens and then take another flight to the island of your choice.
Other alternatives include taking the ferry from Corfu to the mainland and, from there, boarding a bus to Athens. Once in the capital, you can choose either a ferry or a plane to reach Crete, Santorini , or Mykonos.
Another alternative is to reach Larissa from Corfu and take a train trip to Athens.
Crete To Santorini
There are no direct flights from Crete to Santorini , but a ferry route connects both islands during the high season with at least 2-3 daily ferry crossings.
The ferry times between these Greek islands range between 2 and 4 hours, depending on whether you take a fast or regular ferry. The cost of the ferry trip between Heraklion and Santorini is about 50 euros, and it can be a great day trip if you’re staying in Crete. This is one of the most popular ferry travel routes on the Greek islands.
Rhodes To Crete
The trip from Rhodes to Crete can be quite long on a ferry. That’s why most travelers choose to fly from Heraklion, Crete’s capital. The flying time is about 50 minutes, and prices tend to be considerably high, so booking in advance is a good idea.
The ferry route connecting Rhodes to Crete is covered by the sailing company Aegeon Pelagos. There are four weekly connections and the traveling times range between 11 and 15 hours.
It’s possible to board the ferry with a car, a motorbike, or a camper van. Since it’s such a long trip, the vessel offers facilities, including restaurants, bars, and shops , to make the journey more pleasant.
I highly recommend this full-day land rover tour.
Mykonos to santorini.
The only way to travel between Mykonos and Santorini is by boarding a ferry since no direct flights connect the Aegean Islands .
You can save some money traveling with regular service (about 4 hours), pay more, and cut off your traveling time by at least two good hours.
Since this is probably the most famous sea route during summer, it’s a better idea to book your ferry tickets well in advance – we suggest Ferryhopper for that here. The trip from M ykonos to Santorini is among the best Greek island hopping experiences you can have.
Book your Santorini Day Trip From Mykonos here
Naxos, Paros, Ios To Santorini
The three islands are connected by ferry routes all year round, with a considerable increase in services during the high season .
The best way to travel among these islands is by boarding a fast ferry. The ferry travel times between these Greek islands vary from 2 hours to 45 minutes (Paros-Naxos).
The three islands can also make an excellent escape from the bustle of Santorini and are the perfect destination for a one-day trip or a weekend away.
Here is how to island hop between Mykonos and Ios.
Rhodes to santorini, mykonos, and other cyclades.
The best way to travel between the Greek Cycladic Islands and Rhodes is by boarding a ferry to Athens and, from there, boarding another ferry to any of the Cyclades Islands (or Rhodes).
It’s not common to find ferries departing from Rhodes with a stop on the Cyclades , but if you manage to book a vessel making a stop either in Naxos or Paros, it would unquestionably be a winning choice. Check with your ferry operator to find the best Greek island-hopping route for your trip.
Here is how to island hop between Mykonos and Paros.
Italy to greece.
As we mentioned in this post about traveling from Italy to Greece , there are comfortable ways to connect both countries by plane or ferry. Ferries depart from Italy’s main ports , and it’s possible to board most vessels with a rental car or a motorbike.
Some of the ports are Bari, Ancona, and Venice, and they usually connect Italy to the Greek ports in the Ionian Sea , including Corfu, Igoumenitsa, and Patras.
Of course, routes (and prices) increase during the high season, which in Europe goes from June to September.
We recommend you book your ferries with Ferryhopper in advance here.
Which greek islands have airports.
Let’s go island-by-island.
What Greek Islands Have Domestic Airports
- Chios Island
- Ikaria Island
- Kalymnos Island
- Kythira Island
- Milos Island
- Naxos Island
- Paros Island
- Skyros Island
- Syros Island
What Greek Islands Have International Airports
- Astypalea Island
- Corfu Island
- Crete Island
- Kefalonia Island
- Lemnos Island
- Lesvos Island
- Rhodes Island
- Samos Island
- Santorini Island
- Skiathos Island
Best Greek Islands For Island-hopping
Deciding which Greek islands to include in your Greek island-hopping itinerary can be difficult. It depends on what activities you love doing and how you prefer to spend your vacation time.
Do you love sunbathing and swimming on sandy beaches ? Do you dream of soaking in the whitewashed landscapes of Greece? Are you eager to climb mountains and fill your trip with incredible adventures? Do you want epic Greek nightlife ?
There’s an island for every taste and every traveler… People usually choose to visit the most popular places either because they heard about them or because some other travelers suggested so.
Here are our ideas for the lesser-known Greek Islands.
People often flock to places such as Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Hydra , and Crete, for the best beaches, totally unaware there are hundreds of other islands worth visiting in Greece.
If you’re visiting Greece for the first time and eager to discover some of the best islands, the best thing to do is travel around on a ferry. You can get to even some of the less-visited islands with ease.As you can see above, tons of ferries connect the Greece islands, making it super easy to have an unforgettable Greece island-hopping experience.
This is not only the most good option when it comes to ticket prices, but it is also the favorite way to travel for locals. You will immerse yourself in the right atmosphere that will set the pace for a relaxing trip.
One of the best Greek island-hopping tips we can give you is: don’t run against the clock. The most enjoyable way to visit Greece and the islands is to take one place at a time and enjoy it to the fullest. When it comes to island-hopping the Greek Islands, I think that less is definitely more.
What is the best time to go Greek island-hopping?
The best months to enjoy a Greek isle adventure has to be when it’s warm, but the hordes of vacationers have left – making that May, June, and September. Of course, the summer months of June, July, and August are the most popular as that is when people have summer break – but that is also when the prices are higher and crowds bigger
Is it easy to island hop in Greece?
YES! With hundreds of islands and decades of tourism experience, Greece has an excellent, well run and efficient ferry network, making hopping from island to island easy and cheap
How to island hop Greece?
We have provided you with many tips; plan in advance and don’t rush from place to place for the best experience
Can I take a self-guided Greek island-hopping trip?
Is it expensive to island hop in greece.
Yes, and no. Budget travelers can find low-cost accommodations, or you can also stay in 5-star resorts. Just as you can enjoy low-cost street food or eat in the finest restaurants. Greece offers something for all budgets
How long do you need when island-hopping in Greece?
You can rush, but then you would not get to fully immerse yourself in the authentic way of Greek life. At a minimum, we recommend that you spend three nights on each island. So if you have just 10 days in Greece, do not island-hop more than three islands, and spend at least one day in Athens or Thessonaliki
What is the cheapest way to island-hop in Greece?
The cheapest – and easiest way to get around the Greek Islands is by jumping on the Greek ferry system. With several ferry companies offering ferries to and from all of the islands all year, you do not need to spend much
Which Greek island should I visit first?
We hope that island-hopping Greece has been made easier with this guide on planning a Greek island-hopping holiday adventure.
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Hi, Great reading your site. We have 21 days to explore the Cyclades Islands starting in Santorini and ending in Athens, we want to do this leisurely using Ferries. We like the thought that less is more but we have a nice length of time. What route would you suggest ?
Best wishes, Jim
For a leisurely 21-day exploration of the Cyclades Islands starting from Santorini and ending in Athens, you can enjoy a wonderful island-hopping experience. Here’s a suggested route that balances relaxation with exploration:
Day 1-4: Santorini Day 1-2: Arrive in Santorini. Spend your first two days exploring Fira and Oia, enjoying the sunset views, and perhaps a wine tour. Day 3: Visit the Akrotiri Archaeological Site and relax on the Red Beach. Day 4: Take a boat tour of the caldera, including the hot springs and Thirassia. Day 5-7: Ios Day 5: Take a ferry to Ios. Enjoy the beaches like Mylopotas and relax. Day 6: Explore Ios Town (Chora), visit the windmills, and enjoy the local cuisine. Day 7: Spend a day on a secluded beach or partake in water sports. Day 8-10: Paros Day 8: Ferry to Paros. Explore Parikia and visit the Panagia Ekatontapiliani church. Day 9: Day trip to the picturesque village of Naoussa. Enjoy the beaches. Day 10: Explore the interior of the island or take a short boat trip to Antiparos. Day 11-13: Naxos Day 11: Ferry to Naxos. Visit the Portara and explore Naxos Town. Day 12: Explore the inland villages like Apiranthos and Filoti. Visit the Temple of Demeter. Day 13: Relax on beaches like Agios Prokopios or Agia Anna. Day 14-16: Amorgos Day 14: Ferry to Amorgos. Visit the Monastery of Hozoviotissa and the Chora. Day 15: Enjoy the serene beaches and explore the island’s hiking trails. Day 16: Relax and soak in the traditional island life. Day 17-19: Syros Day 17: Ferry to Syros. Explore Ermoupoli and its neoclassical architecture. Day 18: Visit the Ano Syros, and enjoy the panoramic views. Day 19: Relax on the beaches or visit the local museums. Day 20-21: Athens Day 20: Ferry to Athens. Explore the historic sites like the Acropolis and Plaka. Day 21: Visit the National Archaeological Museum and spend your last evening in a nice Athenian restaurant. This itinerary gives you a mix of popular and lesser-known islands, each with its unique charm, allowing for a well-rounded experience of the Cyclades. Remember to check the ferry schedules in advance as they can vary, especially outside of the peak summer months. Enjoy your trip!
Hello.What island to choosef rom September 15 to30 so that it is possible to swit. Thank you Edvardas.
Possible to “Swit” what does that mean?
I am planning a trip to Greece to Island Hop in July. Please advise on the best way to travel between (Athens, Mykonos, Naxos and Crete). I was thinking; Atlanta to Athens (flight) with first island Mykonos (High Speed Ferry or flight) then Naxos (High Speed Ferry) and then Crete (flight) and back to Athens (flight) then fly back to the USA. While in Crete we will likely do a day trip to Santorini.
I have visited Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini in 2017. How many days should I plan for in Naxos and Crete? Please recommend hotels in Mykonos, Naxos and Crete.
Hi SJ, I was thrilled to find your blog. Croatia was my last vacation (before Covid) and I finally booked a “post Covid” vacation for April 2023, We will be taking a Windstar cruise from Barcelona, thru a few ports in Italy and ending in Athens. My plan is to add a few days in Greece after the 8 day cruise. We will sightsee in Athens for 2 days and then I would like to see one (or two) of the Greek Islands. Can you recommend which island we should go for the best overview of Greece. We are 60+ years old so I don’t car about the nightlife of dancing and partying. I want culture and food! Thanks Gail G
Hi Gail, the trip sounds amazing! I would look at these islands for what you describe: Kefalonia: https://www.chasingthedonkey.com/things-to-do-in-kefalonia-greece-guide/ Lefkada: https://www.chasingthedonkey.com/things-to-do-in-lefkada-island-greece/ Milos: https://www.chasingthedonkey.com/things-to-do-in-milos-island-greece/ Aegina : https://www.chasingthedonkey.com/things-to-do-in-aegina-greece-guide/
Enjoy your vacation!
Very nice blog on Island Hop Greece, Here Is How To Travel Between Greek Islands
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10 Beautiful Islands near Crete
Enjoy island-hopping in the cretan sea.
The beautiful islands around Crete each have their own remarkable story to tell, most of which include being home to a lovely beach or two. While most are now uninhabited, except for a few of the bigger ones, they were once home to Bronze Age towns, pirates, fortresses and even leper colonies.
Getting to and from Crete ’s many tiny islands can be a little challenging. The main ones have regular ferry services, but you may need to charter a boat for some of the smaller ones and, in some cases, paddle your own sea kayak there. However, with striking landscapes and fascinating histories on show, it's worth the effort.
A chilled-out romantic paradise
Gavdos has a surprising amount of history and remarkable features for such a small island. Not only does it have the honour of being the southernmost point in Europe (with an oversized concrete chair set up on Cape Tripiti, from which you can look out towards Africa), but it also plays an important role in Homer’s Odyssey – it’s thought to be the site of Ogygia, where Kalypso kept Odysseus prisoner. It’s not a bad place to be detained for 7 years!
Whether or not you believe the tales, the island has one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe in Agios Ioannis (St. John), as well as stunning sunsets, a few good restaurants and some bars. It's got a distinctly hippie vibe and is a great spot for romantic couples.
Spend a day away from it all
Chrissi is a very clean, natural escape where you can find turquoise seas and slightly pinkish sand. The colour comes from the plentiful crushed seashells. The northern shore is home to Golden Beach, where you'll find plenty of sun loungers and parasols waiting for you.
Inland, there are some sandy trails and striking cedar trees, but almost nothing else. If you’re looking for a place to decompress, you could do a lot worse. Boats sail from Ierapetra to Chrissi every day at around 10.30am and return at 5pm. If you're lucky, you might even see some dolphins on the way.
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Historical ruins and sun-bleached shores.
Famous for its crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches, Koufonisi has a long history and a rocky, deserted landscape. Once called Lefki, it used to be an important centre for purpura – a red dye made from shells. It was valuable enough to warrant a collection of ancient houses and workshops and a theatre – all well-preserved despite the passing centuries.
As fascinating as this island is and as pleasant as its beaches are, actually reaching Koufonisi is a little bit of a challenge. You will need to hire a private vessel from Makrigialos, especially if you're travelling with family and friends. It's worth noting that there are no trees on the island, meaning no shade. Bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
The island of Zeus
The island of Dia, which is about 11 km off the coast of Heraklion, is a tiny hub of natural beauty. Established as a nature reserve in 2000, you'll find wild rabbits and hawks on land and crystal-clear waters around the coast. Part of the reason for its beautiful condition is the myth that Dia was personally created by Zeus, making it especially revered by ancient Cretans.
It's not all about natural attractions on Dia, though. The blue-roofed church of Holy Ascension can be found on the land and the mysterious Cyclopean walls underwater – a sort of ancient artificial breakwater. You can get to Dia easily by taking one of the daily trips there from Gouves or Heraklion.
photo by Argymeg ( CC BY-SA 4.0 ) modified
One of Europe’s last leper colonies
Spinalonga has a fascinating history that makes it a popular attraction in Crete today. Its pebble beaches and shallow seas are certainly a draw, but it's the historical structures that make it unique, including fortifications dating back to the 1580s.
Raided and dominated by Arabs, Venetians and Ottomans across the centuries, it was finally used as a leper colony in the first half of the 20th century. It was one of the last such colonies in Europe, with its last inhabitant leaving in 1962. There's now no permanent population, but daily tours sail to this island from Plaka, Agios Nikolaos and Elounda.
Take a walk to this island’s lovely pink beach
Elafonissi is the closest of the islands around Crete, being less than 100 metres from the larger island. It's even possible to walk across when the tides are right. The island is best known for its pink-sand beaches. Unusually, the colour is a product of colourful microorganisms interacting with the native seaweed.
The island has a history of tragedy, marked by a couple of moving memorials. At the island's highest point is a plaque remembering a massacre in 1824, during the Greek War of Independence. A large wooden cross reminds us of those lost escaping the sinking of a passenger steamer off Elafonissi's cliffs in 1907. The wreck of the steamer is still on the seabed near the island.
Take a swim in a pirate bay.
The tiny barren island of Imeri Gramvousa, just off the northwest coast of Crete, is worth a visit for its picturesque bay alone. There are daily sailings directly into the bay from Kissamou Marina. There's a small bar on the beach where you can get snacks and drinks.
The wreck of a small motor ship marks the eastern boundary of the bay, opposite the jetty, and is also worth a look. From the bay, follow the path up 137 metres to the hilltop to the west of the bay to reach the Venetian fort, built from around 1579 and, at one point, used as a base by pirates. The view from up here is fantastic.
Paddle around a historical harbour
The island of Pseira in the Mirabello Bay is a great destination for kayaking. The rugged landscape has few noteworthy beaches, but as a sightseeing destination, it has a lot to offer. Located off Crete’s northern coast, getting to the island requires a 3.2-km-long paddle across open water. As strong winds are common, it's essential to have a fairly good skill at kayaking.
On land, Pseira has a wealth of archaeological attractions, especially those belonging to the Minoan civilisation. The ancient harbour on a small peninsula on the southern side of the island is especially remarkable.
photo by Olaf Tausch ( CC BY 3.0 ) modified
A birdwatcher’s dream.
The island of Antikythera lies between Crete and Kithira. It has a tiny resident population of humans but a massive migratory population of birds. Birdwatchers will find the world's largest colony of Eleonora's falcons and massive amounts of birds passing through on their way to and from warmer climes.
If birds aren't your thing, you might find the island's history more interesting. You can see the remains of a pirate fort dating from around the 4th century BC atop a cliff in the northeast of the Antikythera. And that’s just the beginning of the ancient sights to see. The island most famously revealed the Antikythera mechanism – arguably the world's oldest computer.
Find hidden beaches worthy of the gods
The Paximadia islands are often viewed as a single island because they are so close together. You'll sometimes hear locals call them "Elephant" because, from a distance, the 2 islands do look a bit like an elephant lying down. There are some tiny, beautiful, little-known beaches on the smaller, easternmost of the islands, which you can get to by taking a boat from Kokkinos Pirgos or Agia Galini.
The larger of the Paximadia has a strikingly rugged look, but not much in the way of attractions. However, it does have an important place in Greek mythology. It's believed to be the birthplace of the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis.
This article includes opinions of the Go Guides editorial team. Hotels.com compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.
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Which Greek Island Should You Visit in 2024?
By Rachel Howard and Condé Nast Traveller
Lord Byron was on to something when he waxed lyrical about the Greek islands. But with more than 200 inhabited to choose from, which ones are the very best Greek islands? Here regular isle-hopper Rachel Howard reveals the ones to get in a speedboat for in 2024, with recommendations on where to stay chosen by the editors of Condé Nast Traveler .
Here, we've also ranked the best Greek islands, from 1 to 29. While we love and highly recommend every island on this list—and advocate visiting all of them throughout your lifetime, if you can—we've also edited the list in order so if it's your first time planning a visit to this magical corner of the world, or you just want to branch out from your usual summer isle trip, we can help you choose where to go next. The order below reflects our well-traveled team's personal opinions, the landscapes, food, beaches, hotel options, and more.
For more recommendations, see our round up of the best Greek Islands hotels .
All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. This gallery has been updated with new information since its original publish date.
Best of the Greek islands for: A photogenic and dramatic coastline
Everyone knows the Venus de Milo (which has stood in the Louvre since the 19th century). Until recently, very few had heard of Milos, the volcanic island where Aphrodite’s graceful likeness was discovered. Those in the know jealously guard their treasured island, and especially its 70 (or more) beaches — surely the most diverse and dramatic coastline of all the Greek Islands.
Little by little, though, Milos is being discovered. Instagram is saturated with no-filter shots of the undulating white cliffs at Sarakiniko, the bottle-green swimming hole at Papafragas, and colorful, rickety syrmata, tiny boat houses wedged between rock and sea. (You’ll find the best photo opportunities at Klima and Mandrakia). This painterly landscape was shaped by the minerals that have long been a source of wealth–obsidian, alum, barite and sulphur, which still bubbles up in the island’s many hot springs. As the 11,000-year-old mining industry is gradually giving way to tourism, several chic hotels have made an appearance. Go now, before the trickle of visitors turns into a tide.
Where to stay on Milos:
- For romance: Milos Cove
- For families: Captain Zeppos
- For an eco-retreat: Skinopi Lodge
- For an authentic stay: Achinos By The Sea
Best of the Greek islands for: A long weekend with the art crowd
You know when Dakis Joannou, Greece's foremost art collector, is on Hydra. His yacht, Guilty , is painted in gaudy 'camouflage' by Jeff Koons. Every summer, Joannou invites big hitters such as Matthew Barney and David Shrigley to create site-specific installations in the Greek island's old slaughterhouse. Even the school is commandeered for exhibitions in the summer holidays. Car-free and protected by a preservation order, Hydra has always been the artists' muse of the Greek Islands. Leonard Cohen set the scene in the 60s; now Brice Marden, Sadie Coles and Juergen Teller have homes here. Athenian artists take up residence at the School of Fine Arts, one of the vast, grey, stone mansions overlooking the horseshoe harbour. Musicians of all stripes rehearse and record at the Old Carpet Factory , an 18th-century residence whose double-height ceilings and underground cistern have incredible acoustics.
Less than two hours from Athens , Hydra fills up with chic Greeks at weekends. They come to disconnect and slow down, but also to see and be seen. Wily cats and weary donkeys patrol the back alleys, but all the action happens along the waterfront. Oh look! There's Olivia Palermo at The Pirate Bar and Chloë Sevigny shaking her tail feather at Hydronetta beach bar. Who cares if there are barely any beaches? You can always find a slab of sun-baked rock from which to leap rock from which to dive into the clearest water in the world. See our full guide to Hydra, Greece .
Where to stay in Hydra:
- For a boutique stay: Orloff Boutique Hotel
- For a beachfront stay: Onos Residence
- For a group: Mirkella sleeps 12 people
Best of the Greek islands for: Big, fat Greek feasts
Sifnos owes its foodie reputation to its most famous descendant, Nicholas Tselementes, who wrote the first Greek cookbook in 1910. Forget souvlaki and moussaka: here, chickpea croquettes and stewed capers are taverna staples. The island is peppered with potteries that produce the earthenware casseroles used for revitháda (baked chickpeas) and mastelo (lamb with red wine and dill). Traditional dishes are slow-roasted in a wood-fired oven at To Meraki tou Manoli, a local institution on sheltered Vathy bay. (While you’re there, invest in some timeless tableware from Atsonios Ceramics, in business since 1870.) In postcard-pretty Artemonas, all roads lead to Theodorou, purveyors of nougat wafers and almond sweets since 1933. You can eat in your bikini at Omega3 , where locally foraged and fished ingredients are given an exotic twist: baby-calamari tempura, smoked eel in chilled melon soup with wasabi, and chickpea sorbet with wild apricot jam and pine nuts. In 2021, Omega3’s previous energetic head chef Giorgos Samoilis opened Cantina , an equally experimental restaurant in Seralia, a pretty little bay below the beautiful medieval village of Kastro. Lobsters are plucked straight from the sea at Heronissos, then served with spaghetti on the jetty. It's just the right balance of low-key luxury and unspoiled authenticity. Rather like Sifnos itself.
Where to stay in Sifnos:
- For romance: NÓS
- For a boutique stay: Verina Astra
- For families: Verina Terra
- For a laidback stay: Sifnos House
- For something unique: This windmill Airbnb
Best of the Greek islands for: Honeymooners and first-timers
Cooing American and Chinese honeymooners line up to take selfies as the sun sinks behind Santorini's caldera, the flooded volcanic crater. That view may be a romantic cliché, but it still takes your breath away. A volcanic explosion blew out Santorini's heart 3,500 years ago, leaving black-sand beaches, vertiginous cliffs in psychedelic hues, and swirling rumors about Atlantis in its wake. The eruption also preserved the ancient city of Akrotiri under layers of ash, and created fertile ground for exceptional Assyrtiko grapes and Vinsanto wines. (Sample them at Domaine Sigalas and Vassaltis wineries, paired with delicate dishes that let the grapes sing.)
Apart from a boat trip to the smoldering crater of Nea Kameni and hot springs at Palia Kameni, there's not much to do but gaze at the mesmerizing views from your suite, dangling on the edge of the caldera. Most places to stay are concentrated in Oia and Imerovigli, but the inland village of Pyrgos is up-and-coming. Go for a twilight Bellini at Franco's Cafe and visit Emporio, with its smattering of old-school coffee shops and Airbnbs. For a glimpse of Santorini before the onslaught of cruise ships and Instagrammers, explore the quieter south (but keep your discoveries to yourself).
Where to stay in Santorini:
- For laidback luxury: Perivolas
- For glamour: Nobu Hotel
- For romance: Andronis Boutique Hotel
- For families: The Vasilicos
- For groups: Elilia Superior Villa sleeps 8 people
- For something unique: this cave house
Best of the Greek islands for: Culture and off-season cachet
On Syros, capital of the Cyclades, you won’t find sugar-cube villages and whitewashed lanes. The colorful 19th-century city of Ermoupoli is built on twin peaks–one Orthodox, the other Catholic, the heritage of a long Venetian occupation. There’s still a strong Italian flavour in Ermoupoli’s marble piazzas, princely mansions, and miniature replica of La Scala, the showpiece of a year-round cultural scene. Syros hosts festivals of animation, dance, digital art, film, classical music, jazz and rembetiko, the Greek blues popularised by local musician Markos Vamvakaris. A few rembetiko joints have survived in the upper town, Ano Syros.
Once Greece’s ship-building centre, Syros' industry centres around the yard in Neorio. But the most splendid legacy of the shipping industry are the manor houses in Vaporia and Poseidonia. The beaches are slightly less splendid—with the exception of Delfini, Varvarousa, and Aetos in the wild north. But fabulous seaside tavernas abound: Iliovassilemar on Galissas beach for samphire and sea-urchin salad and rockfish soup; Allou Yialou in the pretty seaside village of Kini for lobster with orzo. In Ermoupoli, the finest places to eat and drink are around Androu Street: Ousyra , where the chef plates up Greek-ified pasta and beautifully balanced salads, and Django Gelato , where the pistachio gelato reigns supreme, and the fig sorbet made in August can sell out in less than half an hour. Perhaps the prettiest restaurant of all is Mazi , a vine-covered courtyard festooned with bougainvillea. Before you leave, stock up on loukoumi (rose-tinted Turkish delight) and San Michali cheese from Prekas delicatessen , and visit Zeyelo for hand-made wooden sunglasses. For more recommendations, see our insider guide to Syros .
Where to stay on Syros:
- For a boutique stay: Xenon Apollonos
- For glamour: Hotel Ploes
- For romance: Aristide Hotel
- For groups: Villa Syros sleeps 12 people
Best of the Greek islands for: Authenticity with a bohemian buzz
The village square should be your first port of call on any Greek island: settle into your favorite café, pick up local gossip, and adjust to the languid pace of life. On Folegandros, this presents a challenge: the cliff-hanger capital, Hora, has not one but three squares, each brimming with a jumble of cafés, tavernas and dinky raki bars. We recommend Pounta , where the Danish owner makes and sells the lopsided cups and bowls in which your coffee and Greek yogurt are served. From Hora, zigzagging steps lead up, up and away to the only real landmark, Panagia church; make the pilgrimage at sunrise (perhaps after an all-nighter at diminutive Astarti bar).
Folegandros–which means ‘iron hard’ in ancient Greek–is as barren as its name suggests. Fruit trees are protected from fierce winds by rings of stones. You won’t find sandy beaches lined with sunbeds; only limpid, pebbly coves, such as Katergo, Ambeli and Livadaki. Set in the rocks above Agios Nikolaos bay, Papalagi serves big fat prawns and whole grilled octopus on a wooden deck aligned with the horizon. Water taxis service some beaches in high season; otherwise you’ll have to scramble down rocky footpaths to cool off. On your way home, stop at Mimis or Synantisi in Ano Meria for the island speciality of matsata (goat or rabbit stew with hand-made pasta).
Where to stay on Folegandros:
- For views: Anemomilos
- For families: Anemi
- For beach access: Blue Sand Hotel
- For a private stay: Maistros
Best of the Greek islands for: Antiquities, active adventures and sunshine all year round
Greece's largest island, the birthplace of Zeus, Crete has ancient ruins, snow-capped peaks and beaches galore. Sunshine is pretty much guaranteed year round, but spring is especially lovely for rambling and sightseeing. The Minoan palace of Knossos is glorious, despite the steady stream of coach parties (go early: it opens at 8 ); but there are stunning ancient sites, such as Aptera and Malia, peppered all over the island. The 16km-long Samaria Gorge also teems with pilgrims, but there are hundreds more canyons to explore, often with only the elusive kri-kri (wild goats) for company. One of the most staggeringly beautiful hikes is through the Aradena Gorge in the wild and rugged Sfakia region, ending at Marmara, a translucent cove on the Libyan Sea, for a cooling dip and lunch at one of Crete’s finest tavernas, Dialiskari.
With the exception of Elounda–a pocket of bling popular with oligarchs–the north-east coast is scarred by over-development. Head west to the Amari valley or Apokoronas for authentic villages surrounded by olive and orange groves. Or go south, where you'll find the best beaches in Crete–try Ligres, Sougia, or Kedrodasos. Alternatively, take a back-to-nature break at Milia Mountain Retreat , a 16th-century hamlet powered entirely by solar energy. Everything on the mostly organic menu is grown, caught or reared locally. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to eat well on Crete, which produces superb cheese, honey and olive oil, as well as delicious goat, rabbit and smoked-pork dishes. Time slows almost to a standstill in the mountain villages, where locals with formidable whiskers welcome you with shots of raki (Cretan grappa) for breakfast and celebrate saints' days with a volley of gunshots. Even the road signs are peppered with bullet holes.
Where to stay in Crete:
- For families: Domes Zeen Chania and Cretan Malia Park
- For romance: Acros Wellness Suites
- For a great location: Blue Palace Resort & Spa
- For a village stay: Kapsaliana Village
- For a private stay: Azure Awe
- For a group: Cien sleeps 16 people
Best of the Greek islands for: Character and lush landscapes
Corfu is the It Girl of the Ionian islands. The cosmopolitan capital is a charming clash of Venetian, British, and French colonial influences. Evenings kick off with cocktails on the Liston (a colonnade modelled on Paris's Rue de Rivoli), followed by dinner at Salto , an unpretentious wine bar and bistro on the edge of the Old Town.
With its pastel villages, rolling olive groves and grand manor houses, the rest of the island recalls Tuscany—but with some of the best beaches in Europe . The smart set stay on Corfu's north-east coast (nicknamed Kensington-on-Sea) where the Rothschilds like to unwind. It's wall-to-wall Sloanes and speedboats at Agni, a tiny fishing village with three rival tavernas (Toula's is the best). From here, you can rent a boat and putter to your own cove: perhaps Nissaki, Agios Stefanos or Kerasia. These idyllic bays still resemble the 'delectable landscape' that Lawrence Durrell fell for in the 1930s–now back in vogue thanks to the ITV series, The Durrells . Or venture inland to Ambelonas , an enchanting winery, restaurant and cooking school that specializes in unusual local dishes, such as roast pork with quince and crème brûlée with Corfiot kumquats. Steer clear of the south, especially Kavos–unless you happen to like wet T-shirt contests.
Where to stay in Corfu:
- For a standout spa: Angsana Corfu Resort & Spa
- For all-inclusive: Ikos Dassia
- For romance: Domes Miramare
- For families: Domes of Corfu
- For groups: Emerald Oasis sleeps 10 people
Best of the Greek islands for: Endless sandy beaches
Naxiots once made considerable fortunes exporting potatoes, cheese, marble and emery. Locals bequeathed undesirable seaside plots–useless for farming–to their laziest offspring. When tourists cottoned on to the island's scores of fabulous beaches, these wastrels found themselves sitting on gold mines. The west coast of Naxos is fringed with mile upon mile of powdery sands. Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna delight toddlers and teenagers alike with their shallow waters and beach bars. As you head south, the beaches get wilder: Plaka, where you can gallop across the dunes on horseback, Mikri Vigla for windsurfing and kitesurfing, and crystal-clear Kastraki.
Should you tire of frolicking on the shore, three supersized kouros statues are hidden in the hills and there are dozens of drowsy villages to explore. Try kitron, the local citron liqueur, at the Vallindras distillery in Halki or sample homemade wine and arseniko cheese under the plane trees in Ano Potamia village. No wonder Herodotus described Naxos as “the happiest of islands."
Where to stay in Naxos:
- For romance: Naxian on the Beach
- For laidback luxury: Kavos
- For a private stay: Eye of Naxos Sky
- For families: Hidden Hill
10. Cephalonia / Kefalonia
Best of the Greek islands for: Laidback family holidays
Casting Penélope Cruz as a Greek peasant is improbable. Shooting a World War II film on an island flattened by an earthquake in 1953 sounds even crazier. And yet Captain Corelli's Mandolin put under-the-radar Kefalonia (Cephalonia) in the spotlight in 2001. The dramatic scenery still lives up to the hype: milky-white Myrtos beach, the island's pin-up; pine-fringed Horgota beach; and the giddying heights of Mount Ainos, a national park where wild horses roam. Outdoor Kefalonia organises four-wheel-drive safaris, if you can't face the hairpin bends. Surprisingly, the two prettiest seaside villages–Assos and Fiskardo–didn't make the cut. But the yachting set has discovered their photogenic charm. Everyone from John Galliano to Jon Bon Jovi has jumped ashore to taste the seafood pasta at Tassia Restaurant in Fiskardo, washed down with local Robola and Muscat wines. (We recommend the organic muscat from the 19th century Haritatos Vineyard in Lixouri, also an enchanting setting for wine tasting.) The rocky coastline around Fiskardo is deliciously pristine: go snorkeling at tiny Dafnoudi or Emblisi, flanked by slabs of limestone that turn the water electric blue.
Where to stay in Kefalonia:
- For an adult-only retreat: F Zeen
- For families: Emelisse Nature Resort
- For groups: Odyssea sleeps 12 people
- For a private stay: Wilderness Whisperings house
- For something unique: This sky high villa
Best of the Greek islands for: Walking trails and wild beaches
Divided by four mountain ranges, Andros is like several islands in one. Lush valleys, rushing streams, handsome villages, and wild, windswept beaches are connected by a well-maintained network of hiking trails, making this an excellent off-season destination. Many of Greece’s powerful shipping dynasties hail from Andros; they have bequeathed the island with grand estates, splendid museums, and an elegant neoclassical capital. The marble-paved streets of Chora are full of unexpected treasures: a tiny, open-air cinema showing black-and-white classics, great pizzas and cocktails in a converted slaughterhouse , sublime sundresses and sandals at Waikiki boutique. Inland, there are fortified monasteries, ice-cold waterfalls, and fantastic farm-to-table tavernas like Kosses in Ano Fellos, Fofo’s in Livadia, and Tou Josef in Pitrofos to explore. And then there are the mind-blowing beaches: from the spectacular sandy bays of Zorkos, Vitali, and Vori on the north coast to the mellow beach bars at Apothikes and Chryssi Ammos, or the sunset views and old-school fish taverna at Agia Marina, there are options for whichever way the wind or your mood is blowing. You could spend weeks on Andros and still have more to discover.
Where to stay on Andros:
- For a guesthouse stay: Melisses
- For privacy: Onar
- For a village stay: Touchstone House
- For groups: Five Star Greece
Best of the Greek islands for: Naturists and purists
The sleeper hit of the Cyclades, Serifos is the summer retreat of interior designers and architects who prefer to keep the sandy beaches to themselves. (One French home-owner is so protective of her hideaway that she tells all her friends she summers on nearby Sifnos.) Even in August, you’ll find coves where you can skinny dip in blissful solitude. That’s because the best beaches (such as Kalo Ambeli and Skala) are only accessible via bone-rattling dirt roads or donkey tracks. Better still, rent a motor boat from the laidback harbor, Livada. Make sure to moor outside Anna’s taverna on Sikamia beach for freshly caught fish and garden-grown salads.
In the cascading hilltop Hora, there’s barely any nightlife, no smart boutiques or fancy hotels. But who cares when you can kick back with fennel pie and raki at Stou Stratou , pick up Natassa Kalogeropoulou’s minimalist ceramics at Kerameio , and listen to Greek folk in the open-air amphitheatre? And all less than three hours from Athens.
Where to stay on Serifos:
- For a boutique stay: Verina Astra
- For romance: Chill & Co.
- For groups: Lenia sleeps 12 people
- For something unique: This 19th century captain’s house
Best of the Greek islands for: Decadent parties and five-star hotels
Mykonos had LGBTQ+ clubs and sunrise parties long before rave culture was even invented. Its bohemian allure hasn’t faded since the 1960s, although the once naked beaches now have nail bars, personal trainers and house music pumping out all hours. The influx of supermodels and superyachts has inspired hot new hotels and restaurants. The hippest place to show off your abs is Scorpios , a louche beach bar that puts Ibiza's finest in the shade (book a cabana to watch the sunset). After hours, it's always Astra, where you might find Keith Richards chatting up Karolina Kurkova. The LGBTQ+ crowd has dwindled, but drag queens and oiled bodybuilders make a splash at Jackie O' , overlooking Super Paradise beach.
If the glitzy excess gets too much, escape to Fokos taverna for superfood salads and lamb chops, or Kiki's, an off-grid grill-shack overlooking Agios Sostis bay, where even Naomi Campbell has to queue for a table. Or cruise over to the tiny island of Delos, an archaeological sanctuary that once thronged with 30,000 sun worshippers (the temple is dedicated to Apollo, the Greek god of light).
Where to stay in Mykonos:
- For romance: Cali Mykonos
- For the party scene: Soho Roc House
- For a laidback stay: Once in Mykonos
- For families: Santa Marina resort
- For groups: Bluewave XL sleeps 36 people
14. Zakynthos / Zante
Best of the Greek islands for: Seaside holidays with toddlers or teens
Zakynthos, or Zante, has shrugged off its reputation as a destination for lads on tour (as long as you avoid Lagana and the built-up south coast) by rebranding itself as one of Greece's greenest islands. It's not just the emerald hills sliding into the electric blue Ionian: much of the south coast is a nature reserve where endangered loggerhead turtles hatch in the sand. The turtle beaches are off limits, but there are countless coves in every hue of green and blue. Favourites are tiny Xigia, with its bubbling underwater springs, and craggy Porto Limnionas, with sunbeds wedged between the rocks and palm-frond umbrellas positioned between the pine trees. Skinari is the starting point for boat trips to the most famous landmarks, the Blue Caves and Shipwreck Beach, where a rusting liner leans into the chalky cliffs. From Keri, you can cast away for Marathonisi island, another turtle sanctuary.
The mountainous interior, all sleepy stone villages poking out of pine forests, is great for hikes and bikes. ( Eco Zante can arrange outdoor activities guided by insiders.) Askos Stone Park is a wildlife sanctuary inhabited by deer, chinchilla, and dozens of other species. After exploring the Venetian castle high above the harbour, treat the kids to thin-crust pizzas (with grown-up toppings like bresaola, aubergine, and gorgonzola) at Alesta on cute St Mark's Square.
Where to stay in Zante:
- For families: Porto Zante
- For romance: Zante Maris Suites and Olea All Suite Hotel
- For a private stay: Halcyon Seas
- For a group: Ble Kyma sleeps 12 people
Best of the Greek islands for : Deep-blue seas and wide-open spaces
It’s not easy to get to Amorgos. In high winds, the fast ferries stay grounded and the slow boat takes upwards of eight hours from Athens. When you disembark at Katapola, a sleepy harbor lined with great little fish tavernas (our favorites are Prekas and Mouragio), a sign announces: 'Welcome to Amorgos. Nobody will find you here.'
That’s just the point. This craggy Cycladic island has always attracted loners, hikers, divers, and pilgrims, who shuffle up the cliff face to the Monastery of Hozoviotissa, a sliver of white dangling 300 metres above the sea. The water here is a million shades of blue and so startlingly clear you can see every sea urchin lurking on the rocky shore. Even the sage-scented hiking trails are called Blue Paths, because the sea and sky are visible in all directions.
With a population of under 2,000, the locals are outnumbered by shaggy goats that blend in perfectly with the burnished landscape and hippie vibe. But you don't have to be a recluse to fall for Amorgos. There are plenty of all-day spots and a few late-night bars where Amorgos groupies meet, summer after summer: Jazzmin, in Hora, for backgammon and cocktails; Pergalidi in Langada for herbal infusions and jazzy tunes; Seladi in Tholaria, with giddying views and a telescope for stargazing.
Where to stay on Amorgos: There are very few hotels on Amorgos, beyond basic rooms to let. Vorina Ktismata is the exception, with seven smart apartments looking out across Hora’s white-washed rooftops.
Best of the Greek islands for: The perfect balance of seclusion and sophistication
One of the tiniest Ionian islands, Paxos packs a big punch. Not for its five-star hotels (there are hardly any) or its sandy beaches (practically none), but for its electric blue sea and three dinky harbor towns, each one so pretty it’s impossible to pick a favorite. In laid-back Loggos, on the northeast coast, star-spangled evenings are spent on the waterfront terrace of Taxidi bar, where the owner, Spiros, often jams with local musicians. You could while away days in the waterfront cafés of Lakka, watching lissom sailors hop on and off their yachts. Protected from the wind but with a lively social scene, the main port of Gaios is characterized by Venetian architecture and a high quota of stylish Italians, who own pale stone villas hidden in the wooded interior or on the crest of the limestone cliffs along the western shoreline. For the many British Paxos aficionados, all roads lead to Ben’s Bar , a happy-go-lucky hangout on Monodendri beach, where you can laze under the olive trees with French toast and Piña Coladas. Make sure to rent a motor boat to putter along the coast to pebble coves such as Marmari and Kipiadi, or across to Antipaxos, an even smaller island that’s a hit with the yachting set. Paths through vineyards and orchards trickle down to bays with sea so clear it looks retouched.
Where to stay in Paxos:
- For an authentic stay: Paxos Villa
- For a great location: Oneiro
- For groups: Panayia View sleeps 14 people
Best of the Greek islands for: Sailors, surfers, and superstar beaches
Lefkada is something of an anomaly. Unlike the other Ionian islands, it’s accessible from the mainland via a causeway on the northern tip. Lefkada’s main town, flattened by an earthquake in the 1950s, certainly won’t take your breath away, but those famous cliff-backed beaches, Egremni and Porto Katsiki, sure will. You’ll find sheltered beaches no matter which way the wind is blowing; but if you’re here for the swell, the south coast is fantastic for windsurfing (head to Vassiliki or Sivota, home to the world windsurfing championships) and Agios Ioannis bay billows with kite-surfers. At Nidri, ignore the unlovely bars and watersports centres, and hop on a boat to explore the little isles nearby. You can swim through sea caves near Kalamos; eat seared tuna with tarama at Errikos taverna on Meganisi, a favorite of reclusive billionaires; and watch the sunset with a basil-infused Mastiha and tonic at Mylos bar, a converted windmill on Kastos.
Want to cool down or escape the summer crowds? Drive through forests of chestnut and pine into Lefkada’s mountainous interior to the somnolent villages of Karya (home to an enchanting textile museum), Eglouvi (to play backgammon under plane trees) and Exanthia (to watch the setting sun from up in the clouds at Rachi restaurant). You might even see paragliders leaping off the mountain.
Where to stay in Lefkada:
- For romance: Ibid
- For views: New Morning villa
Best of the Greek islands for: A mythical retreat for lovers and loners
Despite its legendary stature, the homeland of Homer's hero, Odysseus, remains surprisingly under the radar. Ithaca’s turquoise and emerald coves are popular with the sailing set, but few visitors venture into the forested hills. So you might be the only person exploring the eighth-century BC ruins of Odysseus’ palace, or making the heady trek to the church of Anogi, covered in Byzantine frescoes (ask for the key at the village coffee shop, where the owner will cook you a set menu of whatever is available–maybe a tomato salad, some local cheese and braised goat—straight from her garden or neighbours’ fields).
From Anogi, it’s an exhilarating two-hire hike down to Kioni, a miniature port where you’ll find Spavento , the perfect pier-side café-bar. Go any time of day or night for ice-cream sundaes, excellent cocktails, and a soundtrack to make your heart sing. The waterside tavernas at the drowsy fishing port of Frikes are unfailingly delightful, especially Ageri . The deep, sheltered harbor town of Vathy is barely livelier, but the mood can be deliciously mischievous at Mylos bar. Beaches are mostly small and pebbly, but the sea is as clear and refreshing as gin. Authentic, unspoiled and infuriatingly (or gratifyingly) hard to reach, rugged little Ithaca is somewhere you can still disappear.
Where to stay on Ithaca:
- For a private stay: Ithaca Airbnb house
- For families: Levendis Estate
Best for: Traditional villages and knockout tavernas
Tinos has more than 50 villages, each vying to be fairest of them all. In Pyrgos, famous for its marble craftsmen, sculpted birds and flowers decorate every doorway. In Volax, basket weavers squat outside cottages surrounded by giant boulders, seemingly flung from the heavens by Zeus in a fit of pique. There's even a village called 'love’, Agapi, where you can tuck into wild-fennel fritters at the only taverna. Tinos takes its food culture seriously: there are artichoke, caper and honey festivals. Marathia launched the island’s farm- (or fishing-boat-) to-table scene, elevating local ingredients into complex modern dishes. For a perfect meal in perfect surroundings, go for cuttlefish risotto and octopus caramelized in grape must at Thalassaki, served on the jetty in Isternia bay, then watch dusk bleed into the horizon from Exomeria bar.
Tinos is only 20 minutes from Mykonos, so it's a wonder it isn't overrun with tourists. The harbor is swarmed on 15 August, however, when Orthodox pilgrims flock here to kiss the Virgin Mary at the Monastery of Panagia Evangelistria, one of the holiest sites in Greece. Otherwise, the island is miraculously untouched. Solitary chapels and whimsical dovecotes stud thyme-scented hills, dropping to sandy bays whipped by the meltemi wind. There's a nascent surfer scene on Kolibithra bay, where a VW camper van has been converted into a cute beach bar.
Where to stay in Tinos:
- For a guest house stay: Xinara House
- For a private stay: The Detailor
Best of the Greek islands for: Stark mystique and show-stopping villas
Patmos has an indefinable je ne sais quoi–an otherworldly quality that radiates from its crowning glory, the medieval Monastery of St John. This turreted fortress, bursting with Byzantine relics, is named after John the Divine, who conjured up his apocalyptic revelations in a cave nearby. Pure-white Hora, a World Heritage Site, is where A-listers and fashion editors stay. High walls and heavy doors conceal magnificent mansions dating back to the 16th century. The almighty church has kept nightlife in check. If you must see and be seen, head to quietly glamorous Astivi or Stoa Theo's bar, on miniature Agia Lesbia, in Hora. Beach life is generally languid and low-key; Psili Ammos and Livadi Geranou are our favorite hideouts. Dinner reservations are essential at Benetos, for Med-Asian fusion on an organic farm, and Lambi for grilled fish on a purple pebble beach.
Joining the Patmos in-crowd requires commitment. There's no airport and it's a nine-hour ferry journey from Athens, which keeps the hoi polloi at bay. Seriously reclusive types hop on a fishing boat from Patmos to Marathi and play castaway at Pantelis, a divine taverna with modest rooms to let.
Where to stay in Patmos:
- For a guest house stay: Pagostas
- For a private stay: Patmos 360
- For a village stay: Eirini
Best of the Greek islands for: Traveling back in time
When the writer Lawrence Durrell arrived in Rhodes after World War II, he found an island devastated by centuries of crusaders and invaders. Like the fallen Colossus, it was 'a Rhodes dispersed into a million fragments, waiting to be built up again.' Since then, Rhodes has reinvented itself as one of Greece's top travel destinations. The big draw is the medieval citadel in Rhodes Old Town: stroll along the battlements and you'll spy Byzantine churches, Roman ruins, synagogues, and minarets. In the maze of alleys, seek out Marco Polo Mansion, a 15th-century guest-house decorated like a pasha's harem, with an enchanting restaurant in the garden.
Upmarket hotels are clustered around Lindos, its magnificent acropolis surrounded by slate cliffs and emerald coves. Go for the views–and the sublime octopus ragout at Mavrikos restaurant.
As you head south, high-rise resorts give way to stretches of golden sand, such as Glystra, Tsambika, and Fourni. Inland, you'll find alpine forests (Mount Attavyros), hilltop castles (Monolithos), faded frescoes (Saint Nikolaos Fountoukli) and ancient ruins (Kamiros). Marooned on the southern tip, Prasonisi is a powdery peninsula where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean. One side is calm, the other choppy–a metaphor for this island of two halves.
Where to stay in Rhodes:
- For romance: Casa Cook
- For history: Kókkini Porta Rossa
- For a boutique stay: Melenos Art Boutique Hotel
Best for: Castaway coves and a picture-perfect port
Little Symi has the prettiest port in Greece. As you round the headland, neoclassical mansions in every shade of apricot and peach rise like a mirage from the sea. Built by 19th-century sponge and spice merchants, the whole town is now a national monument. You need strong legs to explore–it's about 500 steps up to the crumbling acropolis–but you won't need a car. The only proper road peters out at Panormitis monastery, a major pilgrimage site. Ravishing beaches such as Agios Giorgos Dysalona (backed by monumental cliffs) and Marathounda (where goats will try to filch your picnic) are only accessible by boat or on foot. In the rugged hinterland, more than 100 monasteries are hidden among the pine and cypress forests.
With its laid-back glamor, luminous sea and almost tropical microclimate, Symi is a hit with French and Italian yachties. You'll find them eating flash-fried baby shrimp, a local specialty, at Tholos, a sensational taverna where the harbor views almost steal the show.
Where to stay in Symi:
- For a hotel stay: The Old Markets
- For a private stay: On The Rocks
Best of the Greek islands for: Escaping the crowds
A throwback to a gentler, slower, more elemental way of life, Astypalea is surprisingly easy to get to (daily one-hour flights from Athens). Every gap in the burnished hills frames a different view of Hora, cascading from the Venetian castle to seaside Skala. The scent of saffron biscuits wafts through the whitewashed lanes. Tucked beneath the battlements, Castro bar has a magical terrace that seems to float above the archipelago.
The nearest beach is Livadi, a sort-of-resort surrounded by citrus orchards. The rest of the island is stark and wild. Treacherous tracks hurtle down to shingle bays such as Vatses, with a rocking beach bar, and Kaminakia, where Linda's farm-to-table taverna serves the best roast goat in the Dodecanese. If you really want to be alone, rent a motorboat from Maltezana, an old-time fishing village, and putter to Koutsomiti and Kounoupes, tiny islands connected by a double-sided beach. At Vathy, a lagoon where erotic graffiti was etched into the rocks 2,500 years ago, the only taverna is called Galini (Peace). Which sums up Astypalea perfectly.
Where to stay in Astypalea: Saluti da Stampalia Suites , with seven subdued but very stylish sea-view rooms, has upped the ante on an island where most accommodation is uninspired.
Best of the Greek islands for: Flopping onto a sandy beach with a good book
Skiathos may be the smallest of the Sporades islands, which counts among its number sleepy Alonissos and the pretty Mamma Mia! location of Skopelos, but it’s by far the most popular, especially with families, who come for the baby powder-soft sandy beaches and laid-back vibe. The island has some of the finest beaches in Greece, with the tree-lined, turquoise-watered Koukounaries in the south the most celebrated and the busiest (forget about getting a sun lounger here in peak season). Those in the north of the island, which can only be accessed by a steep, winding drive through pine groves, are more rugged and windswept but no less idyllic–emerging onto Elia beach on the west coast, with its crystal-clear sea and rickety wooden taverna, is like stepping into a little slice of paradise.
As dusk falls the town starts to liven up, with most of the action centered around Papadiamantis Street, the main shopping drag. Stroll down it on the way to dinner and browse smart boutiques selling handcrafted jewelery and knick-knacks, or pick up local delicacies from the upmarket Ergon deli (reopens in May), which also has outposts in Athens, Thessaloniki and Mayfair. The buzziest restaurants are clustered around the harbour, with Bourtzi, perched atop a tiny rocky island, the best spot for sundowner cocktails and The Windmill a favorite for elegant suppers. For the most charming setting, head to Sklithri and book one of the taverna’s tables right on the beach. Order an ice-cold Mythos beer, baked feta and a platter of perfectly-chargrilled and out-of-this-world delicious vegetables then watch the sun set over the Aegean, with your toes in the sand.
Where to stay in Skiathos:
- For a hotels stay: Elivi Skiathos
- For a private stay: Villa Azalea
Best of the Greek islands for: Low-key authenticity all year round
Unusually for Greece, Aegina is truly an island for all seasons. Only about an hour’s ferry ride from Piraeus, the unpretentious port (briefly the first capital of modern Greece) has a lived-in charm. Athenian weekenders come for the excellent seaside ouzeris; Skotadis, on the harborfront is the standout. Classicists come to explore the portside antiquities of Kolona, the hilltop temple of Aphaia (allegedly the template for the Parthenon) and the ghostly Byzantine chapels at Paleochora. Canny ex-pats have snapped up properties in Pachia Rachi, a stone village with sensational views across the straits to the Peloponnese. The Dumas family, heirs to the Hermès fortune, have been discreetly spending their summers here for decades. With its soft light and gentle landscapes, Aegina has always been a muse for Greek artists and writers, including the prolific painter Nikos Nikolaou, whose former home and atelier is now an enchanting guesthouse and museum (open on Saturdays by appointment). Thanks to a tight-knit community of locals, Athenian escapees, and cosmopolitan emigrés, there’s always something interesting afoot: live music at Proka bar or Il Posto , a cosy Italian restaurant in Kypseli village, an exhibition in the 17th century Markellos Tower, or a travel writing and ceramics retreat at Oikia Karapanou , one of many stately homes in various states of ruin and repair that dot this incredibly diverse island. The only thing Aegina doesn’t have is great beaches—perhaps that’s what has spared this accessible island from over-development. This is an island that doesn’t depend on foreign tourists and is all the better for it.
Where to stay on Aegina:
- For a hotel stay: Nikolaou Residence
- For something unique: this bohemian artist's house
- For a group: Villa Calypso sleeps 11 people
Best of the Greek islands for: Castaway dreams and swimming through caves
Michael Anastassiades, Lynda Benglis, Savvas Laz, Silvia and Nicoletta Fiorucci…the number of artists, designers, and their patrons who summer on tiny Kastellorizo is remarkable. Covering less than five square miles, with fewer than 500 inhabitants, this sun-blistered fleck lies just over one nautical mile from Turkey’s Anatolian coast. You can sail across to the town of Kaş for kofte and a trawl though the flea market and be back in time for a sundowner at Faros, a day-to-night hangout in the old lighthouse beside the mosque. A confluence of Levantine influences draws a culturally curious crowd to this remote Aegean outpost. Once a thriving maritime economy, Kastellorizo was bombed during World War II and then virtually abandoned. Gradually, the handsome sponge and spice merchants’ houses in vibrant shades of turquoise and terracotta are being revived as artists’ residences (such as Fiorucci’s 4Rooms), or enchanting guesthouses like Mediterraneo . You can dive straight from Mediterraneo’s sundeck into the port, where sea turtles bob alongside colorful fishing boats. There’s not much action beyond the waterfront strip known as the kordoni , or shoelace: a little snorkeling, cave swimming, or boat-watching, a ramble along goat tracks, a slow supper of stuffed onions under the fairy-lit plane trees at Ta Platania, or perhaps some yoga in the wild on the even tinier islet of Ro. This is a pure and simple Greece.
Where to stay on Kastellorizo:
- For a boutique stay: Casa Mediterraneo
- For romance: Mediterraneo
- For groups: The Admiral’s House
Best of the Greek islands for: Relaxed cool
This tiny island packs a surprisingly hip scene into its low-slung hills and shallow coves. Most of the action centres around the dinky port, where life drifts by in the waterfront cafés and the lively strip that leads to the square. Every season, more upmarket restaurants ( Yam , Lollo’s ) and boutiques ( More than This , Zali ) spring up alongside classic dive bars like Doors and Lucky Luke. At dusk, all roads predictably lead to Sunset bar for a spritz; after hours, everyone stumbles to cult disco La Luna, where both the décor and music are stuck in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
By day, the scene is way more mellow: brunch at Margarita’s in town or Time Marine on Psaralyki, one of a string of shallow, narrow beaches along the southern coastline. Beyond the modest, boxy houses of the harbour town are dozens of sensational villas designed by in-demand architects. The fanciest properties are scattered around Soros and Agios Georgios bays, where you’ll also find two of the island’s best tavernas, Peramataki and Captain Pipinos . The latter is a short boat or kayak ride from Despotiko island, where goats roam around the semi-excavated sanctuary of Apollo. The beauty of Antiparos is that nothing is more than ten minutes away, and after a couple of days, you’ll feel like a regular, bumping into the same good-looking faces wherever you go. If you get cabin fever, you can hop on the 7-minute ferry to Paros for kite surfing, windsurfing, fine dining, or village hopping.
Where to stay on Antiparos:
- For a hotel stay: The Rooster
- For a private stay: Antiparos Escape Villas and Oliaros
Best of the Greek islands for: Distinctive architecture and good vibes
Long overlooked because of its checkered history—this Dodecanese Island was an Italian naval base from 1912–1943, and later became the site of a notorious insane asylum—Leros is all the better for flying under the radar. The vast natural harbor of Lakki (an excellent marina for sailboats) still bears the surreal hallmarks of Fascist rationalism, an Art Deco mirage that’s like a faded version of Miami on the Med. The colorful neoclassical houses of Agia Marina and Platanos have a more lived-in feel, peppered with appealing patisseries, antique shops, and B&Bs. Italian cognoscenti and Turkish yachties have discovered Leros for one very good reason: Mylos by the Sea , arguably the best seafood restaurant in Greece, with a hopelessly romantic setting overlooking a windmill jutting out to sea. Sunset watchers converge on Harris Bar , another windmill poised between the medieval castle of Panagia and Panteli’s pebbly beach. Most beaches on Leros may be small and scrappy, but the water is luminous and there are just enough low-key beach bars like Zephyros and Lime . Since restaurants cater mainly to Greeks, the food scene is authentic and affordable: Thea Artemis taverna on gentle Blefouti bay, Lychnari in Lakki, and the cult souvlaki joint Yparxo in Platanos are local favorites. Although there’s a tiny domestic airport, there are no international flights or big, branded resorts on Leros. Instead, there are family-run guesthouses brimming with character, where you feel more like a friend than a room number.
Where to stay on Leros:
- For glamour: Villa Clara
- For (vegan) romance: Archondiko Angelou
- For a private stay: Lakki Old Farmhouse
Best of the Greek islands for: Family holidays with the smart society set
If it weren’t for Sotirios Anargyros, Spetses might be as barren as its more bohemian neighbor, Hydra. In the early 20th century, after making a killing in tobacco, Anargyros bought up huge swathes of the island and planted thousands of pine trees. Anargyos also founded the famous boarding school (whose grounds are a lovely spot for an evening stroll) that inspired a certain English teacher to write The Magus , and built the Poseidonion, a grand harbor-front hotel that has been gloriously restored (there’s no finer place for an aperitivo). From the heirloom-filled mansions built on shipping fortunes to the horse-drawn carriages and tasteful yachts, the whole place reeks of old money. But there’s plenty of new-fangled fun too: late-night bars ( Bikini or retro-cool Bar Spetsa ), two open-air cinemas, stylish boutiques ( The Closet , whose resident cats are an attraction), and expensive restaurants ( Patralis and Tarsanas vie for the best fish soup). In the summer, Spetses is a sociable place to see and be seen. But it’s also lovely off-season, when you can hike the gentle green hills or cycle the coastal road that circles the island (there’s even a Tweed Run in October). Compact, well-kept, and easily accessible from Athens (2-3 hours by catamaran), Spetses is a people-pleaser for all ages and seasons.
Where to stay on Spetses:
- For glamour: Poseidonion Grand Hotel
- For families: Orloff Resort
- For a private stay: Magus House
This article was originally published on Condé Nast Traveller U.K.
Crete simply has it all!
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and the fifth largest one in the Mediterranean Sea. Here, you can admire the remnants of brilliant civilizations, explore glorious beaches, impressive mountainscapes, fertile valleys and steep gorges, and become part of the island’s rich gastronomic culture. Crete is, after all, a small universe teeming with beauties and treasures that you will probably need a lifetime to uncover!
Where to go...
Chania (also spelled Hania) is the capital city, a place where different civilizations have flourished throughout the centuries. Strolling around the Old Town’s maze-like alleys with the beautiful Venetian mansions, the fountains and the churches will guide you through well-preserved historical monuments. The city of Chania is built on the area of Minoan Kidonia, at the end of the homonym gulf between Akrotiri and Onicha peninsulas. It was the former capital city of Crete (from 1847 until 1972). Nowadays, it is the second largest city of Crete after Heraklion and capital of the homonym prefecture. Get familiar with the city of Chania by wandering around in its streets, visiting its museums and admiring the different architectural styles presenting the historical route of the city.
Rethymno is located in the north end of the prefecture, built by the sea and is a city with many faces. Rethymno or Rithymna as it was once called has been inhabited since the Later Minoan III period. Nowadays, it keeps the elements inherited by its history (from antiquity up to now), preserving at the same time the characteristics of a modern city. You can reach Rethymno by boat from Piraeus or by plane from Athens to Chania and then drive 60 km to Rethymno.
Heraklion is the largest city of Crete and one of Greece’s major urban centres. The city flourished under a multicultural influence throughout the centuries; that’s why there is a plethora of Byzantine , Venetian and Ottoman structures to look out for! The city’s landmark is the 16th c. Koules fortress in the westernmost side of the old Venetian port , which along with the fortification walls (dating back to the same period) are among the most significant and imposing sights.
Agios Nikolaos (“Ag Nik” as the British visitors love to call it) is the capital town of Lassithi. Here, the bottomless salt lake Voulismeni dominates the area. A narrow channel of water connects the lake with the sea, while an imposing backdrop of red rock and trees adds to the natural beauty of the scenery. A small pine tree park lies above the lake, and a stone path leads to its southern section to a cute small harbour for fishing boats. The city boasts interesting Archaeological, Folklore, and Natural History museums, Byzantine churches, a well-organised marina, bustling pedestrian streets (ideal for leisurely walks), and traditional squares with buzzing cafés and restaurants.
10 reasons to fall in love with Crete
Tips for your trips.
The Old Port Area of Chania
Chania’s Venetian Harbour was carefully built in the 14th century for commercial purposes and for protection against pirate raids. Today it is a point of reference for the city of Chania, and a much-photographed place with a touch of magic!
Geoparks in Greece
Greece is a land of major geological change. Millions of years of continuous mountain building have endowed this part of the planet with amazing natural monuments.
Explore the east part of Crete
Take part in a traditional harvest activity!
13 Oscar winning beaches
The first thing that comes to mind when you think about Greek summer are the endless coasts and the charming seashores that “flirt” with the magical waters of the Aegean, Ionian and Lybian Sea.